1 year, 11 months ago
The only safety device you need on holiday is common sense. Keep that activated at all times, remember you’re a guest in another country and don’t be thrown into a state of paralysed fear by scare stories – the paranoid traveller is a million times more at risk than Forrest Gump in hyper-gullibility mode. Apart from that; stay calm, have fun and keep a few of these hints in your back pocket – just in case.
1. Know your destination
You don’t have to go spy master general before booking most holidays, but it’s worth checking out any recent news stories online so you’re aware of the area and any possible problems.
2. Familiarise yourself with local customs
We all like to think we’re savvy travellers, but even the most nomadic of us can fall foul of local customs. Learning a few basics about dress, drink, greetings, religious observances and attitudes is always a plan.
3. Copy all your travel documents
It’s sensible to scan all your travel documents, including everyone’s passports, and upload a copy on two separate devices if you can. You’ll probably never need them, but you might.
4. Research ‘family-friendly’ events carefully before you go
If you’re thinking about travelling for an event, do some research before you book – especially if you’re travelling with kids. Some festivals, and many feria, aren’t as family-friendly as they claim. So know in advance, what’s going to work for you and what isn’t.
5. Back up your phone data
Lost and stolen phones are a fact of life. Backing up contacts and other personal data to the cloud and regularly emailing holiday photos to yourself, cuts a bit of the pain. If your phone is stolen, change your email passwords as soon as you can. And Google’s Android Device Manager lets you remotely track registered Android devices, ring them and wipe their data – worst case scenario, but good to know.
6. Learn a few basics in the local language
Knowing a few basic phrases and how to ask for directions or help in an emergency is one of the easiest ways to stay safe. Try to keep calm, speak slowly and you’ll be understood. Avoid getting upset or angry in a foreign language – especially if you only know five words. And carry a pocket phrase book – phones don’t always get a signal and batteries die.
7. Make a note of local contact numbers
Get a hold of local emergency service numbers and add them to your contacts. Other essentials are: local hospital, registered taxi service, airport and your nearest embassy (sounds dramatic, but if you lose a passport, an embassy can get you an emergency replacement in a few hours).
8. Know your city and don’t be nervous
Every single city on the planet has problem areas and places to avoid. Be aware of where’s safe and where you need to be more careful. Wandering around aimlessly in the main tourist areas is usually fine but, if you’re off the beaten track, know where you’re going and look confident.
9. Avoid wearing valuables
When you’re out and about, day or night, leave expensive watches, cameras or jewellery behind. Don’t wear anything you’re attached to and couldn’t bear to lose. You may not be wealthy but, in certain places, a few rings and a necklace can make you look wealthy.
10. Watch where and how you use your phone
Always be aware of how and where you use your phone (good advice for device-dedicated teens and older kids). Phone theft is common because it’s so easy and café tables, bar counters, back pockets, hip pockets and, yes, even outstretched selfie-taking hands, are all targets.
11. Safety check your holiday accommodation if you have kids
Doing a quick safety sweep on your rental accommodation when you arrive is smart. Check window and balcony door locks, familiarise yourself with pool alarms, know where the fuse box is and identify the main trip switch, check sockets are covered if you have toddlers. And always do a fast (but not too terrifying) safety chat with kids: stairs, pools, slippery tiled floors, running on the patio – you know the drill.
12. Be wise about dogs, cats and other animals
Kids are attracted to cats and dogs like fluff to Velcro. A few words about not petting strange animals goes a long way to avoiding emergency rooms or permanent life-long phobia. And if you’re out in the country, remember plenty of places still have wild animals. Be aware and don’t ever imagine it’s a good idea to take a snap with a baby boar – big, bad mama boar isn’t far behind.
13. Learn the rules of the road
If you’re driving on holiday, know the laws of the country and familiarise yourself with obvious stuff like give ways, roundabouts, unmarked junctions, speed limits, on-the-spot fines. On toll roads, always make sure you have a bank card – some take cash, lots don’t. Carry the country’s required emergency equipment in your boot. Know what the alcohol limits are (a non-drinking, designated driver is safer still). Don’t get harassed by other drivers. And if you’re lost, slow down or pull over, take a breath and find your bearings.
14. Be aware when you’re drinking
It’s normal to drink more than usual on holiday. But be careful. Awareness of the local attitude to drinking and knowing your limits goes a long way to keeping you safe.
15. Keep an eye on your drinks in clubs and bars
When you’re out in clubs and bars, keep an eye on your drink glass and don’t let it out of your sight. Don’t drink out of pre-opened bottles. And, like we need to tell you, don’t accept drinks from strangers.
16. Always check your pockets before leaving places
Do a quick pat-down for keys, money, phone and wallet before you leave somewhere you’ve been sitting for a while. It’s easy to forget, especially if you’re herding kids, but it could save you a lot of grief later.
17. Try not to look ‘total tourist’
Easier said than done we know. But bear in mind, most pickpockets and scammers want an easy mark so they’re looking for obvious signs: souvenir caps and t-shirts, constant snapchatting and selfies, looking lost, aimless drifting, backpacks, shoulder bags. Dress a little more local, don’t have your phone out all the time, carry everything valuable in a tricky to open bag and keep it closed, don’t wear wealth and be aware in crowds, on public transport and in museums and galleries. And don’t do scared or paranoid, that’s the biggest tourist-tell known to man.
18. Keep valuables and money safe
Avoid carrying large amounts of cash – bank cards can be cancelled and replaced. Keep passports and documents in a zip-pocket in your bag, always close bag fasteners and cross-body is better than back-pack.
19. Don’t be heroic under any circumstances
In the unlikely event you are mugged, give up everything fast and don’t argue – only you and your family are irreplaceable.
20. Know your local transport and registered city taxi firms
It’s easy to lose track of time when you’re out at night. Have the number of a reliable, safe local taxi company and a public transport timetable on your phone. If you’re lost and it’s late in the city, a main train station will always have a taxi rank. Make sure you have the address and details of your rental accommodation in your phone too, just in case language is an issue.
Like we said, use your common sense, take a few easy precautions, don’t be gung-ho or scared witless and you’re pretty much guaranteed a safe, happy holiday. Enjoy.